So, apparently we have a little bit of rain coming to the east coast.
As we wait for Irene to make her appearance, I can’t help thinking about another big hurricane: Gloria, in 1985. I was a freshman in high school, and I remember baking a Boston cream pie right before the storm hit. We lost power for a few days and most of the food in our fridge went bad, so we ate that pie at just abut every meal. Now, I have a hard time with even Boston cream donuts; they seem less filled with cream and more with desperation.
One photo exists of me from just after that storm, where I am posed next to a tree that crashed through the fence in our backyard. I am wearing a Chicago concert t-shirt and Jordache jeans and a red bandanna tied in my awkwardly-feathered hair. I am smiling like a fool, my braces glimmering in the post-hurricane sun, as if I fancy myself a big-game hunter standing next to a recently-felled elephant.
I don’t remember being afraid at all when Gloria came to town, probably because I trusted that my parents would keep us safe. When the eye of the storm passed over us, its false sunshine filling our neighborhood, I insisted on going outside, despite my mother’s protests. I knew the storm was coming back, but there didn’t seem to be any sense of immediacy to it for me. Maybe it was because I had such a sheltered childhood, I just never imagined anything could hurt me.
Over the past couple of days, as the reports of Irene have grown more and more serious, I have developed a growing sense of anxiety. I’ve toggled between every known weather channel and news service, I’ve watched as #hurricaneirene has trended on Twitter, and I’ve read all the heartless comments from those who hope that the east cost is wiped off the map, who think the rain will cleanse us of our sins, who blame everything from Bush to Obama. I’ve made lists of emergency phone numbers, planned our inventory of non-perishable items and batteries and bottled water, mapped out a list of responsibilities for myself and my husband to accomplish before the storm hits (me: clean the house, do the laundry; him: set up the basement water pump, store anything in the yard that’s not nailed down). And then, last night, on our way to Target to stock up, I had a bit of a meltdown.
“I’m…really…worried,” I managed, hyperventilating while holding back tears.
My husband was reassuring, but I knew what he was thinking, because I was thinking the same thing: what the heck was wrong with me? I’ve been through other storms over the past twenty-six years, and I’ve weathered many, many other disasters of equal or greater malignancy.
And maybe it’s just that. Maybe I’ve just had enough, for now, of that feeling of impending doom, of being exposed to the elements, like an already-battered lawn chair someone forgot to pull into the garage. I’m through with “battening down the hatches.” I just want to feel the sun on my face for a while.
But life is never just a series of sunny days, not for anyone, and certainly not when you’re an adult, with your own life and your own responsibilities. And being a grownup can be TIRING. You can’t just bake a Boston cream pie and listen to your Chicago albums while the storm rages and your parents tape up the windows and fill the bathtub with water; you actually have to deal with adversity head-on, again and again and again. You can no longer trust that someone else is going to keep you safe, and while that autonomy can be empowering and exhilarating, it can just as easily leave you feeling unsettled and vulnerable and facing a panic attack on the way to Target. It’s all dependent upon how the storm tracks.
Ultimately, I suppose I can only do my best, and hope for the best. To that end, my latest goal is to eat all the ice cream in my freezer. When the power goes out, it’s all going to melt, anyway.
Umbrella photo care of The Graphics Fairy.